“The Map” by Elizabeth Bishop presents an interesting journey into the complexities and simplicities of a map. It is common knowledge that a map uses lines and colors to separate different countries. Map makers carefully divide the land into parts, and label the seashore towns outwards into the ocean. Do map makers name a town, or do historians? The fish caged in the ocean, or the hare running south in Norway cannot be seen on the map. Bishop’s “The Map” can be interpreted in two ways: it is about the discriminate nature of historians, and whether an individual can identify themselves like countries do with the colors and labels on a map.
Historians and map makers all take parts in the creation of a map. However, the foundations in which they draw the map on are vastly different. In the first stanza of “The Map”, Elizabeth Bishop begins to describe the structure of the map with “Land lies in water; it is shadowed green” (Poems, 5). This is describing the form of nature, and it is the unchanged nature of how land and water coexist. A historian marks the borders and names the lands; yet a map maker colors them and merely labels them. Map makers do not decide the information in which they put on the map, whereas the victors in history get to do so. “Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under, drawing it unperturbed around itself?”(5) Map makers and historians are closely related, but the historians biased nature sets them apart. This is all about the structure of a map, the natural of the world and the relationship of a historian and a map marker.
To further extend from the idea of the map, Bishop then reaches out to create a link between the characteristics of humans and maps. “We can stroke these lovely bays … to provide a clean cage for invisible fish.”(5) She uses this metaphor to bring the reader to think of the glass as a magnifying glass and the cage as the mapped water, to see the invisible fish is to say the fish in the ocean....
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